Jubilant students and educators welcome Wildin Acosta back to school

Wildin Acosta (center) with students and educators who campaigned for his release.

By Sabrina Holcomb

After a harrowing six-month stay in a detention center for undocumented immigrants, Wildin Acosta is back in school where he belongs.

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Acosta walked out of his front door headed for school this past January. He finally walked through the doors of Riverside High School last week to hugs and tears from his fellow students and teachers.

“Wildin’s first day back was a joyous occasion,” shares Ellen Holmes, one of the Riverside teachers who fought doggedly for Acosta’s release. “All of the students and staff were so excited to see him. They kept running up to tell me that he was in the building or that they had hugged him.”

Acosta’s long nightmare began when he was seized by immigration officers while on his way to school in Durham, North Carolina, and sent to a detention center in Georgia. Since then he’s endured a harsh incarceration, solitary confinement, the constant threat of deportation back to the violence he had fled in Honduras, and a last-minute, heart-pounding reprieve that led to his being taken off a plane that was preparing to fly him back to Central America.

During that time, Acosta, a serious student, never stopped thinking about finishing his education, even asking his teachers to send his homework assignments. Acosta had looked forward to graduating with his class this past spring and was hoping to keep up with his studies, but the detention center refused to give him the homework package mailed by his teachers.

Despite setbacks, Wildin’s supporters never gave up hope—holding rallies and other activities in Durham, writing and calling in to the Department of Homeland Security, even traveling to Washington, D.C., to talk to lawmakers. Thanks to the united efforts of a coalition of educators, students, and community activists, Acosta was finally released on bail.

“We are thrilled that Wildin is back in school and taking the classes he needs to finish high school and prepare him for his post-high school education,” says Mika Hunter Twietmeyer, a Riverside educator who campaigned tirelessly to free Acosta. “He is a brave young man and I am confident he will use his experiences from the past year to do great things, advocate for his friends and the many other students that are still detained, and inspire undocumented students to stay in school and complete the education they deserve.”

“The fact that Wildin is back in school is a huge part of his life,” affirms Viridiana Martinez of Alerta Migratoria, a North Carolina group that worked closely with Acosta’s teachers and a coalition of activists to secure his release. “We watched in awe as community organizing made everything happen,“ says a grateful Martinez. “Wildin is still here because educators were paying attention.”

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